Words are just words, and only have power by the actions of the speaker.
I grew up in a very Catholic home. In fact, I knew nothing about the existence of any other religion outside of The Holy Trinity, until high school. When I was a kid, I remember that when it was time to make turkey stuffing with my grandmother, it was the time of the year she began to sing a song called, “Happy Holidays”. And throughout the holiday season I remember my grandmother dancing from one room to another singing, “Happy Holidays”. It always made me feel good and cheerful. When I hear that song now, it still makes me smile and reminds me of her holiday spirit. I thought nothing of the term, Happy Holidays. I thought it was a nice way to cover all the holidays my family celebrated; Thanksgiving, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Happy Holidays was just a condensed wish to another person. I never needed to be reminded that my family’s reason for the season was the birth of Jesus. It was just understood, because it was covered in CCD and eventually, Catholic school. Now, Happy Holidays is being vilified because the birth of Jesus is not specified. Using the logic everyone must be wished Merry Christmas or civilization will collapse, then what about our New Year? Is that all I get, a Merry Christmas? You didn’t say anything about the New Year, so you must not believe there is a New Year. How can you deny the existence of a New Year? Blasphemer!
When did the United States of America become so literal that we have to ‘fight’ a war to protect The Baby Jesus’ birthday? When I was a child in the 1970s and 80s, my mom played the Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond Christmas albums, and they are Jewish. They don’t celebrate Christmas, yet they took their beautiful, unique voices and gave us our Christmas favorites. See, it’s okay for Jewish people to sing Christmas Carols, but those who say, ‘Happy Holidays’, are the real villains. Think about that for a moment, and then read this quote from an article in Jewish Weekly:
“There is nothing wrong with wishing a non Jewish neighbor “Merry Christmas,” just as it would not be a betrayal for her to wish you “Shabbat Shalom” when leaving work on Friday afternoon.”
Pure evil, right? (For those of you who do not understand sarcasm, please look it up. We’ll wait.) It has to be the best, ‘Love thy neighbor’ example I have found so far, and guess what? It was not made by a follower of Jesus.
The Christmas Myth
It’s a myth that Happy Holidays is a politically correct statement. It has been called that because somehow the meaning was changed from a nice way to wish someone Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, or whatever you celebrate- may it be happy; to: “There is no God.” Happy Holidays is simply a PLURAL statement and well wish, that’s it. Those of us who use the plural statement do not wish to challenge or belittle anyone’s faith. And yes, I know there are people who wish to offend people of faith. They do it because they believe it is their job to get you to think like they do, but they are not a true threat. I have never seen an atheist convince a person of faith to walk away from their faith. (Well, except Mat Damon’s character in the movie Dogma, but that’s just good comedy.)
I Want You
This War on Christmas is not a war on the birth of Jesus. I think he War on Christmas is a veiled attempt to evangelize. When someone insists on being only wished a Merry Christmas, it’s another way of saying, “My faith is the only true faith.” Didn’t the pilgrims who felt persecuted hop on The Mayflower so they would have the freedom to burn witches, their way? Okay, at least have the freedom to practice their religion.
The War on Christmas existed long before Bill O’Reilly, but he is one of the most famous “warriors”. Yes, the guy who kills every person he writes about in the title’s of his books, announced that the term, “Happy Holidays”, was a declaration of war to people of faith: Specifically, Christians. Bill O’Reilly, an armchair general who talks about “war” like it’s a pee-wee basketball game. Yes, a war is is when hostility exists between two parties, but resolving this conflict by way of war means that people are willing to kill and die to defend their group’s argument that caused the rise in hostility. Funny thing about war, is that as we read in books and history by those who fight in wars, often those who are fighting the wars forget what could’ve have been so important to bring about the death and destruction they have witnessed first hand. (One, two, three what are we fighting for?)
War of Ideas
Then there are those who believe the financial crash of 2008 was brought on by “Happy Holidays”. As Daniel Henniger, a columnist for the WSJ put it, “One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.”
He goes on: “It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.”
So, it was the atheists who deregulated banks.
He ends it by cautioning us with this nugget: “The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.
Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.”
You know, Daniel Henniger has a point there. How could people like me who don’t believe in God, possibly know the difference between right and wrong? Maybe I just don’t believe in fearing punishment in another life, if I do something unethical in this one. Maybe I know how to be ethical through what was instilled into me (good or bad) when I was a kid. Maybe, I just choose to be ethical because it’s my choice and I prefer not to make others miserable to further my financial and/or personal gains.
A reader once sent me a message asking how I could possibly enjoy something like a sunset, without believing in God. Maybe I like the way the gases of the atmosphere mix with humidity and the light of the sun to create majestic sunset, and I don’t have to give credit to a deity, I just sit back and enjoy the view. If we were created by a deity, wouldn’t that deity want us to sit back and enjoy his or her work? Certainly someone who could create something so majestic would not be petty enough to require a thank you for everything. How insecure is a deity who needs to be thanked for everything? I’m pretty certain that if God did exist, he has a full enough life not to require thank you or praise for every single deed. Kind of like how an atheist or anyone, can do a good deed simply for the happiness of others, and though a thank you is appreciated, the deed is never done simply for praise or reward. Or maybe the reward is seeing someone happy. Who’s to say what’s in the mind of an evil atheist like myself?
Not wishing one another a Merry Christmas is not endangering The American Way. Yet our holiday greetings are getting far more attention than the fact that 22 veterans are committing suicide every day, or that their are children starving in the U.S., or thanks to the actions revealed in the Torture Report we are no longer have the moral credibility we once did. now have new applications of hummus done in our name that is forever burned into the retinas of our minds. No, we have a bigger problem: People are not wishing ‘Merry Christmas’, because there is a war on Christmas.
While we’re talking war on faiths, how about war on non-faith? I have members of my family who post on Facebook how happy they are when someone is denied freedom from religion. That a person should not be allowed to not participate in a religious ritual in their daily lives. But a war on non-faith sounds just as ridiculous as a war on Christmas. Now, Happy Holidays is being vilified because the birth of Jesus is not specified. Using the logic everyone must be wished Merry Christmas or civilization will collapse, then what about our New Year? Is that all I get, a Merry Christmas? You didn’t say anything about the New Year, so you must not believe there is a New Year. How can you deny the existence of a New Year? I
In fact, in my own personal beliefs and in the spirit of Cafeteria Catholicism, I’m an atheist, but sometimes I do wonder if there is a god, which makes me agnostic at times. Does not mean I want to convert you to my non-faith? Hell no I don’t. I enjoy my freedom from religion, just as someone else enjoys their freedom to practice their religion.
And now that the holidays are just around the corner, I have already been notified that if I do not share a picture on Facebook that proclaims Christmas as the only winter holiday, I will suffer the consequences and be wished a Merry Christmas. Because dammit, it’s what Jesus would have wanted.
If you wish someone Happy Holidays, and are offended when answered by Merry Christmas, you really don’t wish them a happy anything. If you are going to wish someone a Merry Christmas, and become offended when it is answered by a Happy Holidays, you don’t really wish them a Merry Christmas. In both cases, actions do not support the well wishes. That same example can be applied in many other instances. For example the statement, Support the Troops. When an a declaration of war is proclaimed and you cheer, talk about war like it’s a sport while staying home playing Airsoft using terms like, “real world situations”, paint giant words on the side of your house that match the yellow ribbon car magnet that says, “Support The Troops” right below that giant flag mounted in the back of your pick up truck, those are just decorations if that’s all you do. And donating to non-profits for vets is nice, but if we really supported our troops we would’ve made sure that when they got home, we had the ability to give the help they need. Recently, an elected representative cut a bill for services to help suicidal veterans because it would be too costly. It’s funny how he and millions of other Americans never thought going to war would be too costly.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Support the Troops only have power through our actions. Don’t say any of them if you don’t intend to show the same sentiment with your actions.
PS: I never intended to tie this post to Senator Coburn blocking the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for Veterans. I started writing about words and how those words could be proven insincere by actions that do not match them. Then I started thinking about 2002/03 and so many things I have heard this past decade regarding The Iraq War, Afghanistan War and how as a patient at VA hospitals I watched as no one talked about the true cost of war, while cheering on Shock and Awe. I remembered when I first saw young Soldiers and Marines making their way through the halls of the Loma Linda VA with their newly amputated limbs. I thought about the twenty year-olds I saw who appeared to be uninjured physically, and when I looked into their eyes I saw nothing but pain. Then out and about with friends and family, on TV and radio, I heard people who had never put on a uniform or volunteered an hour in a Veteran’s hospital, talk about war like it was a hockey game. There’s more to that, but it is the holidays… Thank you for reading, -Karen
10 Great Christmas Songs Recorded by Jewish Singers
Who Started The War on Christmas? by Max Blumenthal -The Daily Beast 12/09/2008
Mad Max and the Meltdown: How we went from Christmas to Crisis. by Daniel Henniger, Wall Street Journal 11/20/2008
Senator Coburn Blasted for Blocking Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill- IAVA 12/15/2014